A migraine is a painful headache that may be preceded by a warning sign, also called an aura or a prodrome, such as a flash or flashes of light, dizziness or numbness. Migraine pain can be excruciating and may leave the afflicted individual incapacitated for hours or even days. While these headaches usually last from between four to 72 hours, the frequency with which they are experienced varies from individual to individual. They may occur just once or twice a year or several times a month.
How does a migraine headache develop?
Migraine headaches commonly start during childhood (between 2.5 percent and 22 percent of children experience extreme headache pain) and may lose their intensity and frequency as one ages. Children as young as two can suffer from migraines. In addition, they tend to run in the family – if one's parents suffered from migraines, there's a 74 percent chance the children will as well. During childhood, boys and girls experience these headaches with the same frequency. After puberty, however, girls tend to suffer more. The intensity of headaches may increase for women during the first few months of pregnancy as well as during menstruation. Research suggests that migraines may be caused by functional changes in the trigeminal nerve system, a major pain pathway in the brain, and by imbalances in the chemical serotonin, which acts as a regulator to pain messages going through this pathway. Other studies utilizing brain scans have shown that the volume and amount of blood reaching the brain is restricted during migraine attacks. In addition, the mineral magnesium, which is involved in nerve cell function, drops right before or during migraines, indicating that low levels of magnesium may cause nerves in the brain to misfire.
Migraine headaches are often triggered by something a person ingests, such as alcohol; aged cheeses; chocolate; fermented, pickled or marinated foods; monosodium glutamate; caffeine; and aspartame. Other types of triggers can include physical and psychological factors such as stress and fatigue, intense physical activity, weather changes, season and altitude level and time zone changes. Changes in sleeping or eating patterns, bright lights, medications, low blood sugar, tobacco, secondhand smoke and strange odors can also bring on a migraine headache.
What are the symptoms of a migraine headache?
Migraines usually begin with an intense pain on one side of the head that may gradually spread. Severe nausea, vomiting and hypersensitivity to light and sound can accompany a migraine headache.
Experts claim that 10 percent of adults who have migraines with an aura will most likely have warning signs approximately 20 minutes before the headache starts. Warning signs include flashes of sparkling light, zigzag lines in the field of vision, blind spots that slowly spread into the field of vision, numbness, tingling or a feeling of weakness in the face as well as hand or leg, and sometimes difficulty seeing or speaking.
Other forms of migraines (ones without an aura) may still have one or more symptoms of premonition several hours before the headache actually starts. The symptoms or signs can include feelings of elation or intense energy, a craving for sweets, a feeling of thirst, irritability, drowsiness or depression.
Conventional medical treatments may help relieve the symptoms of migraine headaches but they do not address the root of the problem. Discover why we believe that natural treatments are the best way to treat migraine headaches and may end migraine forever.
Migraine Headache Treatment
The Response of Modern Medicine
Typical modern medical treatment of migraines often involves the avoidance of various foods like chocolate, tyramine-containing cheese and alcoholic beverages. In addition, various medications are used in an attempt to either abort the migraine once it has started, or prevent a future one from occurring. Abortive headache medications, such as Imitrex, Amerge and Axert, may be used to treat and emerging migraine. Prophylactic medications, on the other hand, are used in an attempt to prevent a migraine, and include Inderal, Depakote and tricyclic antidepressants. Many doctors often start by recommending nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, as they have fewer side effects than anti- migraine medications. Nontraditional treatments, such as acupuncture or the herb feverfew, may also be tried to help reduce the pain or the frequency of the migraines experienced. And, if all else fails, stronger pain relievers like narcotics may be prescribed.
The bottom line of all these approaches is that the individual becomes dependent on these drugs and often lives in fear of the next migraine attack. In addition, none of these approaches does anything to address one of the potential root causes of this condition – lax ligaments or tendons in the neck – and, thus, do nothing to alleviate the chronic pain afflicted individuals experience. Furthermore, some of these drugs not only lead to a dependency and create stress and fear surrounding the next potential migraine, but, in the long run, they may actually do more damage than good. For example, although anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to produce short-term pain benefit, they result in long-term loss of function and even more chronic pain by actually inhibiting the healing process of soft tissues and accelerating cartilage degeneration. Plus, long-term use of these drugs can lead to other sources of chronic pain, allergies and leaky gut syndrome.
The Natural Approach to Migraines
Many migraine sufferers claim that neck pain and tightness is associated with their migraine and that these sensations usually signal the start of the headache. This is a very clear sign that the source of the migraine, for these individuals, is in the neck. It is also a very clear sign that for many individuals, Chiropractic is the best curative treatment. If the primary cause of the migraine headache stems from ligament or tendon weakness or injury to the neck, a high success rate with Chiropractic can be expected.
However, migraine headaches rarely involve just one clear-cut cause and should not be treated in isolation. Food sensitivities, hormone deficiencies or excesses involving estradiol or progesterone, and yeast infections may also be involved and must be treated.
That means Chiropractic will be combined with natural supplements and treatments such as the elimination of allergic foods, natural hormone supplementation or yeast infection treatment. For example, if a woman's migraine usually occurs at a particular part of her menstrual cycle, a hormonal abnormality may be involved, usually low progesterone level during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Taking natural progesterone during this part of the cycle will often relieve the problem. If, on the other hand, the migraine occurs after particular foods are consumed, during particular times of the year or when the individual is exposed to certain scents, an allergic component may be involved. In fact, migraines are a common symptom of food allergies, and eliminating the food often does the trick. The role of the diet on the patient's pH is also critical, and Metabolic Typing may be used to measure the pH of the blood, urine and saliva. Balancing a patient's pH is generally very helpful in eliminating migraine headaches.
In summary, treating migraines should involve not only Chiropractic to address structural issues, but additional natural treatments to address the other symptoms involved with most migraines.